For several decades the .com gTLD was the dominant domain extension for business and most brands were successful in obtaining theirs. However, for many companies, large and small, there has frustration in not being able to obtain their preferred name. This resulted in a secondary market and the use of top level domains like .tv, .co, and .me. Yet, many people don't realize that these are the Internet country code top-level domains for Tuvalu, Colombia, and Montenegro respectively.
In 1998, ICANN was created and they started the process to expand the offerings beyond the eight original gTLDs (the originals were: .com, .edu, .gov, .int, .mil, .net, .org, and .arpa.). In 2000, the first round included a handful of domains including .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name, and .pro. In 2004, the second round of expansion occurred with .asia, .cat, .jobs, .mobi, .post, .tel, .xxx, and .travel. Between 2004 and 2012 ICANN was working on policies and guidelines for a much larger expansion. Now in 2016, hundreds of new gTLDs are available and the implications are significant. Here is a video from ICANN promoting their new "friends". (Note: As of July 16, 2016 this video had only received 20,509 views. That seems very low considering the significance of this change.)
This summer 374 new top level domains became available to register at GoDaddy and other registrars. Additionally, one started pre-registration (.games) and 292 are "coming soon". Beyond hundreds of new generic domains for common words in English nearly three dozen languages will have their own domain extensions including Arabic, Chinese, and languages based on the Cyrillic alphabet. According to GoDaddy, "This will be a huge boon for companies that promote their products in countries where these languages are spoken."
So what does this mean for you as a brand manager? This is both a huge opportunity and a huge threat.
A FEW OF THE THREATS
The death of the dot com means that you must protect your brands vertically against competitors and defend your trademark rights. It will be so much easier for a competitor or a customer to register your brand with hundreds of different extensions. This is going to impact brands both large and small.
The registrars, like GoDaddy, just won the lottery. They've been able to break free from the status quo and apply tiered pricing to domain extensions and to premium domains within these new gTLDs. Whereas, in the past, a company with bulk purchasing power could acquire a .com in the range of $8 per domain...this new world includes domains that will cost hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars per year just to register.
A FEW OF THE OPPORTUNITIES
This is going to give brands alternatives to a dot com and allow for shorter more relevant URLs. For example, as many of you know Google recently changed the name of it's company to Alphabet and launched the website https://abc.xyz. This was only possible by the expansion of the gTLDs.
You have the opportunity today to fence in your brands and even utilize these new URLs for micro sites or web applications that you do not want on your main company website. Below are some examples (note: "brand" in these examples should be replaced with your brand).
- "brand.press" could be used for all of your press releases, media kit, and media contact information.
- "brand.careers" or "brand.jobs" could be the job board and applications portal for your company.
- "brand.pics" could have all of the approved images for your brand.
- "brand.store" could become your e-commerce site allowing you to have your main website using a better CMS system than what is provided by your e-commerce platform.
- "brand.deals" or "brand.cheap" could be used for flash sales that you may chose to target to specific audiences. However, if your value proposition is not based on having the lowest price, then you might not want utilize this domain but you would still want to control it.
TIME TO RETHINK STRATEGY
As Michael Porter teaches, "The real point of competition is not to beat your rivals. It's to earn profits." Therefore, you need to determine the risk/reward for your brand and how these new domains can enhance your positioning and your ability to earn profits. These new domains may be meaningful to you or they may be an expensive distraction.
In the past, the internet has had an impact on industry structure and I believe that this milestone has the potential to change the playbook for many players. Keep in mind Porter's five forces as they relate to this opportunity/threat and your strategy to earn profit. As a reminder, the five forces are:
- Rivalry among existing competitors
- The threat of new entrants
- The threat of substitute products or services
- The bargaining power of suppliers
- The bargaining power of buyers
As Joan Magretta summarized, "From advertising to zipper manufacturing (and every industry in between), the same five forces apply, although their relative strength and importance may differ."
I believe that the death of the dot com will have an impact on business and consumer behavior in the years to come. The smart players will see if these new offerings can improve their strategic position and increase their profits. There will also be many threats of higher costs in blocking competitors, legal battles over CyberSquatting, and adapting to the greater bargaining power of the domain registrars.
Will these new gTLDs be your friend or your foe?